During the time I have been working on this current theme about knowing God’s will, I have run into variations of the theme several times. At a recent meeting, I pastor whom I respect and whose ministry I appreciate was telling the group how he realized on Saturday evening that he had to change his sermon for the next day because of significant events that he felt people would need to have help dealing with–and he felt that God wanted him to deal with. That isn’t quite as bad as throwing away the prepared sermon just before the worship service begins but it is pretty close.
I have also had conversations with people struggling with what in the end is a struggle to know what God’s will for their lives is–and again, these were people I know and respect and who are seriously seeking God’s leading for their lives and who are involved in helping others follow God. Personally, I have been struggling with God’s leading and plan for me for over a year–I have been pretty sure there is a plan and that something is coming but as I have shared before, the “wait” answer and I have never been on really good terms.
I think that in the end, I at least have to admit that knowing God’s will isn’t always an easy task. While there may be times when it is clear what God wants, even then there are problems with our willingness to accept and follow that leading. There may be people for whom God’s leading is always clear and precise and east to follow but on my good days, I kind of think those people are few and far between.
On my bad days, I think that people who are so sure all the time may be somewhat self-deluded, guilty of substituting their own will and desire for God’s will and desire. Sometimes, I can see that I am right in this assessment because their version of God’s will fails to produce the harvest of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23), which is a requirement for anything that genuinely comes from God.
All of this leads me to one important aspect of my own personal search for God’s leading. I personally need to allow myself lots of time for the process to work itself out. And even when I think I have arrived at an understanding of the will and leading of God, I need to allow more time to ensure that I have got it right. There has been more than one time in my personal journey when I have begun rejoicing at finding God’s leading only to realize a day or two later that I had got it wrong and the real answer was something else.
This time allows me to think, meditate, pray and consult with others. All of these are important parts of the search process that have helped me over the years. Allowing lots of time has obviously made the process longer but when I allow the time, I eventually arrive at a “kairos” point, where the answer is clear and I am willing to follow the leading.
As a pastor and pastoral counsellor, I encourage individuals to allow sufficient time for an adequate search. I encourage congregations to take time to work through their searches–often, for example, I will introduce ideas and approaches to the congregation without asking for any kind of decision. This is to allow them to become comfortable with the idea and have adequate time to think and pray through the ideas.
How much time is enough time? I really don’t know. I think we have to make sure we allow time for the process and then in the end, we make a decision. Is there a change that we could make the wrong decision–definitely. I believe that the more honest searching time we allow, the more likely we are to come up with the right decision, there is always the very real possibility that we can get it wrong.
The thought of making the wrong decision about God’s leading can produce serious problems–we can get to the point where we are unwilling to make any decision. This spiritual paralysis is a real problem for some.
So, we will look at this topic–what happens if we get it wrong?
May the peace of God be with you.